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We all aim to tell a story through one single image. For many occasions, though, a well-assembled collage is an excellent way to pull the viewer in for a full experience. Consider this method for sharing photos from an event, a real estate shoot, or even a family photo session!
Collages are easy to put together in Photoshop, so let’s walk through the steps. Note that I am working on a Mac with Photoshop CS3, so your system may have slight variations in the key commands needed.
Photo selection is crucial. You want to select a mix of scales that will span the entire event. That means you pick some wide shots that show the entire scene, and some detail photos that show lots of texture and personality. Without one or the other the story will not be complete, and won’t carry the same emotion that it could.
Open all selected photos in Photoshop. You’ll want to pick a minimum of three, but avoid getting cluttered with too many also. Typically, I limit my photo selection to no more than eight. Keep in mind that the more photos you select, the tougher it will be to see details of each one.
Create a new file (File -> New). Be sure to make it a bit larger than the size you want in the end. I always make it 20×30″ at 150ppi.
Go to one of the open photos and, using the marquee tool, select all (or press command+A). Press Command+C to copy. Click into the new document and press Command+V to paste. This will bring the photo into the new document on its own layer. Depending on the size and resolution of the photo you brought in, you may need to adjust the size. To do this, press Command+T to transform. Use the corner node and, while pressing Shift, adjust the scale of the photo until it is small enough to comfortably move around on the new document canvas.
Note: if you convert the image layer to a Smart Object first it will maintain integrity of the image quality as you size up and down.
After you have added all images that you want in the collage, it’s time to lay out the photos! This is where you will shift the photos around until you feel they tell your story best. You’ll discover a style of your own after doing several collages. I generally like to either have symmetry in layouts, or make it look like an interlocking puzzle. That being said, each story has slightly different needs.
When you have the layout figured out and the photos are all sized as they should be, you can create a thin white border between images to give a bit of visual space. This step is optional, and the amount of white space you put between photos is a personal preference.
To do this, select the image layer that you want to move then use the arrow keys to shift it in the direction you want. Using the arrow keys rather than shifting with the mouse will help keep track of distance so that the spacing in between photos is even.
Alternatively you can butt them up against one another and using a Layer Style (select Stroke > Inner) add a white or black border around each image. See screen capture below.
Once you have your collage laid out and the photos are spaced as you want them, you are ready to merge all layers. To do this, press Command+Shift+E.
Once your collage is merged into one layer, crop any extra white space around edges so that it’s even. This outside white border is typically very narrow on my collages, so I don’t bother measuring. Be sure that it looks even all around.
To make sure your collage fits your social media needs, you may want to resize it once complete. I recommend saving your original flattened collage as a JPEG for possible future re-use.
To resize your collage and bring it down to social media friendly dimensions, press Opt+Command+I. Sizing varies per social media platforms, but I typically save it at 1000 pixels on the short edge and 150ppi.
If you want to put a watermark on your masterpiece, now is the time. Bring in your watermark and be sure to merge all layers once more to save as a JPEG. You are now ready to share it with the world.
Have you made any collages? Have any additional tips? Please share in the comments below.